How we learned

The first 8 years-

Yardville Heights school, in those days, was a 4 room school house. It had 2 classrooms on the ground floor and 2 classrooms on the second floor. In the middle of the second floor was a room known as the teachers room where the teachers presumable relaxed, on the lower floor below the teachers room was the entrance hall to the building. There were entrances on each end of the building that we used to come in and out and to go to the playground. The playground in the back was a rather large expanse of open dirt field and we didn't have any formal baseball diamonds or things of that sort. There were several swings sets and I believe a seesaw there. There were also a lot of weeds around the playground that had little sticker burrs that always seemed to get caught in our stockings. We often wore knickers and cotton stockings. Kids did not wear long pants in those days until they got to high school. Our classrooms held 2 classes in each room. Kindergarten and 1st grade in one room, 2nd and 3rd in another, 4th and 5th in an upstairs room and then 6th and 7th in the other upstairs room. Yardville Heights School The principal was Mrs. Anabell S. Clymer. To us Mrs. Clymer was a frightening person. She was rather tall and always dressed in black. She had very dark hair which was gathered up in a bun. Her husband had died or been killed and she always wore these black silk dresses which made her look that more stern than she really was. (In later years I found that she was a regular person and she and my mother played bridge together.) But she was the principal and as such ruled with an iron hand. Her choice of punishment for people who acted up in class or were sent to the principal was to administer a shaking. A shaking by Mrs. Clymer was something to be feared. She would grab the offender by the shoulders and dig her thumbs into the collar bone and shake the person vigorously. It was rumored that at times she made sure that the person's head would bang against the wall as she shook him. My cousin Calvin attests that he had this done to him. He recalls that when his father heard of the shaking he went to the school and confronted Mrs. Clymer to whom he read the riot act. Nowadays such activities would be considered "child abuse" and the teacher would be sued. But that was then. Mrs. Clymer had a boyfriend who would pick her up at school occasionally and everyone gossiped about that. It was also rumored that Mrs. Clymer smoked and in the early 1930's it was very unusual for women to smoke especially in public so we never actually saw her smoke but she smelled like smoke when she came out to the teachers room. In the kindergarten my first teacher was Mrs. Graf. Sometime during the school year someone came to visit her from the school administration and she had to leave. As I later found out it was because she was pregnant. In those days if you were pregnant, apparently you weren't allowed to teach in the schools. In Kindergarten and 1st grade we started to learn to read with the reading cards saying things like "See Jane", “See Dick" ,”See Dick and Jane", “See Spot”, etc. Whatever technique they used, it worked because we learned to read. Our next big move was to the 2nd and 3rd grade classroom where our teacher was Mrs. Mae T. Druggin She was a very nice teacher and we liked her. I enjoyed school because every other year we had a higher grade in our classroom . We were able to listen to what was going on with the other class while we were supposed to be doing our "seat" work. This made it much easier the next year. We did a lot of silent reading and also read aloud. Our classes were quite small, I don't remember how small, perhaps 10 or 12 kids in a class. In kindergarten, some of the kids were so small that they had little wooden steps in front of their desks chairs to support their feet. We came primarily from Yardville Heights and Lakeside but there were some children who, for some strange reason were bussed in from Crosswicks area. Crosswicks was quite a way away and the kids who were bussed passed several other schools on the way to Yardville Heights. Some kids came in from farms and you could tell which ones because they smelled like cows, which they had probably taken care of before coming to school each morning. So certain student had an aroma about them. Names I recall- Elwood “Bunky” Middleton, Dorothy Goldy, Billy Caffery, Doris Blakesley, Eleanor Albrecht, Bill Reither, Joan Prykanowski, Asey P. Conover, and from Crosswicks, Leonore Kinter (my 2nd cousin), Patsy Gary, Russell Carr, Julia and Julian Wysocki - twins from a farm near Crosswicks, Marion Lippincott, two very chubby twins from Crosswicks who were “Negroes”. I really don’t recall identifying them by color or as “colored” or as “Negro” or as being different. My mother later recalled that I invited them home for lunch on at least one occasion. Asey Conover was also Negro but again, I don’t recall him being identified as different. I am sure others will come to mind later. Some stayed with me throughout high school, others quite after 8th grade or in early high school. We had occasional evening performances for our parents when a platform was erected in the class room. When I was in about 4th grade, one of these was a minstrel show, which of course one does not have these days. I played one of the “end men” in the minstrel show and had a couple of corny jokes to deliver. I remember one of the jokes was "Why is a fat lady like the ship the Queen Mary?" the answer was "Both take 7 tugs to get them into their slips". That was the kind of humor we had in those days. In the school we had the toilet facilities in the basement. the Boys room on one side the Girls on the other. All I remember is that they always smelled like they were cleaned with Pine Soap or Lysol. In Kindergarten room, there was a small bathroom in the "cloak" room. We hung our coats and boots in the cloak room. The school was one we could walk home from for lunch. In fact it was a big treat when we could take our lunch to school. I walked about a block and a half to home, had lunch and walked back. Some of the things I remember about school classrooms was that we were doing a lot of studying about the Arctic and we carved polar bears and igloos out of Ivory soap. We liked to make maps out of a mixture of salt and flour and water. You could mix it up and sculpt into mountains then dry it in the oven and paint it. I suppose we had organized physical education but mostly it was playing baseball or soccer in the back lot of the school. We did play some kind of Kick Ball and tag. We liked to swing hard on the swings and jump off at the peak of the swing to see how far we could “fly”.

When I was in about 3rd grade, some kids got vaccinated (against Small Pox). When you got vaccinated, you had to be very careful not to get the vaccination site get infected or you would get lock jaw (at least that was what we believed). To protect the vaccination site a little celluloid dome was taped over the site. Our nurse in grammer school was Mrs. Kisthardt. Fortunately I did not see her much. We had Phys Ed once a week or so, usually playing kick ball or some such game. We did have some classes in tumbling and that was a lot of fun, We learned how to do somersaults and cartwheels.

One traumatic incident at school was a school mate getting hit by a car. To get to school from Yardville Heights, it was necessary to cross “busy” Broad Street. We had a crossing guard or a teacher there but one day Louella North ran out unexpectedly and got hit by a car. I don’t recall any details but she was out of school quite a while and when she returned she had scars on her knee from her injuries. One of our classmates was Beatrice Wharton. She lived on Highland Avenue in a fairly large house. She had at some earlier time been severely burned in a fire so that her lower face was heavily scarred. She was naturally withdrawn and the object of curiosity (and probably shunning) from the other kids. I am sure she suffered greatly from her disfigurement. Later on another boy moved into Yardville Heights and he suffered from (what I now know to be) cerebral palsy. He was the object of cruel teasing, poked at with sticks, taunted and generally mistreated by some of the kids. I guess no one told us anything about such disabilities. Fourth and 5th grades were handled by Frances Bresnahan. I don’t recall much about her except that she lived on Broad Street on the way to Yardville. In our class rooms, we had desks with little ink wells, we used wooden pen holders with removable steel pen points. In the spring, we would stick Lily of the Valleys in the ink wells to watch the ink defuse up the veins of the flowers. We opened classes with a Pledge of Allegiance and then had a bible reading, usually a psalm. Just before Valentines day, we had a box in the classroom for Valentines which we addressed to our favorite class mates. On the big day, we put our heads down on the desk while the teacher distributed the valentines to us at our desks. We took home notes to our parents about the monthly evening meetings of the PTA (Parents and Teachers Association). Our parents really attended those monthly meetings. I think the class with the most parents attending got a prize or at least recognition. The school was kept clean by a janitor (Mr. Rich, I believe), he had his room in the basement. Each fall when we returned to school we found it had been newly painted and in general, it was kept in good condition. (The original building still exists but has had a big extension added where the playground had been. The floors were oiled wood and the janitor swept them each evening with an oiled sawdust mixture. We helped out by “clapping the erasers”. If you were a good kid, the teacher would let you take the blackboard erasers out of the building after school and “clap” them to remove the chalk dust. Sometimes you got to wash the blackboard with a wet sponge too. My favorite subject was probably drawing. I liked diagramming sentences too. I was a good student but sometimes did not do well in Conduct. On occasions, the District Superintendent, Mr. Alexander would visit the school and sit in the back of the classroom to observe. He seemed to us, an ancient man with white hair and piec nez glasses. He also gave out attendance awards at the end of the school year.
When we were in 6th grade, they opened a new school in Yardville and we were transferred there for 7th and 8th grades. Here is a picture of our 8th grade graduation. I gave a speech at the graduation.